NUSD Spotlight
Community Newsletter
 -- February 2016  

Hope you enjoy this edition of "NUSD Spotlight," the district's monthly community newsletter. Contact Director of Communications Jim Sanders, 561-5267, if you have comments, concerns or story suggestions. Thank you for your support of Natomas schools.
'Every Student Succeeding'

Overcoming Hardship to Excel in School -- and Life 
A 5th-grader who faced painful shyness and multiple heart surgeries.

A 4th-grader who learned to control anger so consuming that he wanted to punch walls.

A 12th-grader who often skipped school as a freshman and had all "F's" in her classes, then found purpose and turned her life around by helping students with disabilities.

Fourteen students, one from each District-operated school, were honored by Trustees and Supt. Chris Evans this month for overcoming hardships to succeed in their classes.

All are beacons of inspiration to classmates and staff. Read their story here.
College and Career Readiness 

OK,  Students -- Pick a problem, then solve it 

Twelve-year-old Linda envisions a smartphone that you never have to touch -- just talk and it follows your orders.

Karmina, 11, proposes a "teleporter" that can whisk you from one place to another, instantly, without a car, train or jet.

William, 13, imagines a smartphone-like device that creates holographic images so it seems like you're talking face-to-face with friends.

All three are students in Natomas Middle School's Design Class -- part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme -- which challenges students to use imagination, critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills to make the world a better place, either by solving an existing problem or inventing a new device.

Every student in 6th, 7th and 8th grades at Natomas MIddle School takes t he class at all three grade levels, advancing from learning basic research skills to tackling school, then community, then  societal issues. They're not required to build any technology or carry out any strategic plan they propose, only to explain what it might look like, or cost, and why it makes sense.

"It's good to see them tackle real-world problems, right now, at this age, and co me up with creative solutions, teacher Fernando Cruz said.  Read the  full story here.
       Want to view this video before it hits Cable TV?
Kids star in this look at new elementary sports program  
Natomas Unified's new elementary school sports program was highlighted in this video that will air soon on Comcast's community service channels. The video was filmed by Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium and focuses on 4th and 5th grade basketball games, which are part of a larger NUSD after-school sports program designed to help participating boys and girls gain confidence, make new friends, practice teamwork, and better connect them to their schools.   Hundreds of students have participated thus far in fall and winter sports, with more to come this spring.

NUSD Wins National Honor Roll Recognition 
College Board recognizes District
for Providing Access to Rigorous Courses 

Natomas Unified was one  of only 130 school districts nationwide selected by the College Board to its Gaston Caperton Opportunity Honor Roll this month for creating rigorous academic opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students, which include children from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Districts on the Honor Roll must have increased the number of underrepresented students who take and pass Advanced Placement Courses (AP), take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), and are on track to attend college.

Supt. Chris Evans called the award a tribute to Natomas Unified's commitment to expanding access to college-preparation classes -- such as AP, International Baccalaureate, Chemistry of Physics -- and to recognizing the potential in all students.

"When placing students, Natomas Unified doesn't make decisions based simply on a child's performance today but on where that student could be with increased access to courses such as these," Evans said.  Read the full story here.
Thank You, NUSD Staff 
Classified Employees of the Year 
Five Divisional Honorees Join District Winner CJ Moua

One of NUSD's Core Beliefs is that staff must be committed, collaborative, caring and exemplary. This year's Classified Employees of the Year fit that bill to a tee.

Divisional Winners, announced this month, are Sherry Duschka for Office and Technical; Willie Jennings and David Scheuermann, Para Educator and Instructional Assistance; April Glaves, Child Nutrition; and Craigan Stribble, Maintenance, Operations and Facilities.

All were honored at a Board of Trustees meeting this month, along with Information Technology Specialist CJ Moua, the District's Classified Employee of the Year, whose selection was announced late last month. Read the full story here.
Programs, notes and opportunities 
Reaching Out to You   
Federal Court: Parents Can Object
to Release of Student Information 

A federal court order has California on the verge of limited disclosure of personal information about every student who has attended a public school in the state since 2008. But parents and guardians can object by April 1 to release of their own child's data.

Natomas Unified is not involved in the federal litigation over state enforcement of disability rights but we want all parents to be aware of the court order and their right to file an objection form, available here. U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller will decide how to proceed after the April 1 deadline.

Private student information would be disclosed only to plaintiffs in the lawsuit, not to the public, but the data could include a child's name, address, Social Security number, demographics, and information about the student's courses, medical history, behavior, attendance, and Special Education assessments, plans or program history.
More information is available 
Student Vaccination Campaign  
Natomas Unified is continuing to push for all students lacking state-required vaccinations to obtain them by July 1 to remain eligible to attend school under a new law banning exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs.

Natomas Unified contnues to contact families affected by the new law, SB 277, and the District will distribute a "Got Immunizations" reminder card listing state-required vaccinations, how to obtain them, and a contact number for information.

Vaccinations can be obtained from private pediatricians or from NUSD's B. Tery Burns Health Clinic, located near Natomas High School's tennis courts, 3301 Fong Ranch Rd. Students will not be charged by the clinic for immunizations. More information is available here.
New Round of NUSD Open Houses

Come and see for yourself.

The next round of NUSD Open Houses is scheduled for March 17, when Natomas Middle School and Discovery High School will greet parents and guardians from 6-8 p.m.

Three campuses held Open Houses in February: Inderkum High, Natomas High and Natomas Gateways Middle School.

Remaining NUSD schools will hold the event in April, except for Leroy Greene Academy, which has scheduled a Business Exhibition for May 3, and an Art Exhibition for May 4. For more information, call School Leadership and Support at 561-5290.
Natomas Schools Foundation
to award nine scholarships    

The Natomas Schools Foundation will continue to accept  applications until March 31 for its Academic College Scholarships
At least $6,000 will be awarded this year -- three $1,000 and six $500 scholarships to high school and post-high school students. Winners must reside/resided and attend/attended high school within NUSD boundaries. They also must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher and have served 50 hours or more in formal employment or volunteer service, which can include community assistance or participation in a school club or organization. Awards can be used for educational expenses in accredited four-year colleges or trade schools.
If you have questions, contact Jim Sanders, NUSD Director of Communications, at 561-5267.
Student Essay Could Net $3,000  

      As NUSD seniors set their sights on college, we want them to know about the following essay       contest:

Physicians for Social Responsibility Sacramento Chapter is awarding scholarships of $3,000, $2,500, $2,000, and seven $1,000 scholarships in an essay contest for high school seniors or early Class of 2016 graduates attending school in Sacramento or 11 surrounding counties, including Yolo, Placer and El Dorado. Applicants must write an essay of up to 500 words on the following quotation: "Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free." That quote is from the Nobel Lecture presented by the 14th Dalai Lama after he was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. Online applications must be submitted by Sunday, March 13. More information is available here.

NUSD Needs your Help:  
Please fill out this survey

We want your feedback on school programs and services you feel are important to your child and other students. Please fill out this survey, which will be used to create a state-required Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, listing District goals, actions and budget priorities for the year. The survey looks at programs implemented over the past few years to support college and career readiness, enhance instructional technology, expand music and sports, and benefit English Learners, Foster Youth and students of poverty, among others. Thank you for your support of Natomas schools.
Parent CORES Learning Opportunities 

Natomas Unified's Parent CORES program is accepting signups for the free learning opportunities listed below. To register, call (916) 567-5516.

1). Explore Early Literacy: Bring your child to this fun, hands-on early literacy workshop at the South Natomas Library, 2901 Truxel Rd. Every child will get a free book! This program is for adults and young children up to age 5. An English workshop will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2, and a Spanish workshop at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 9.

2. Academic Programs: Participants will receive information on a variety of NUSD academic programs, including International Baccalaureate, AP Capstone, IB Middle Years Programme, and . Session will be held from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in the Natomas High School Library, 3301 Fong Ranch Rd.

3). Successful Single Parenting: After this workshop, participants should be able to identify the characteristics of successful single parents, instill single parenting discipline, be aware of the unique strengths of single-parent families, and apply tips for taking care of themselves. Session will be held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at the B. Teri Burns Health Center, located near the Natomas High School tennis courts, 3301 Fong Ranch Rd. 
Hats Off to Staff 

Melissa Mathews: Wants kids to leave her class feeling wanted, important, confident 

This simple, poignant moment tells you much about Inderkum High School English teacher Melissa Mathews:

Interviewing for this story, her eyes teared-up when she spoke of a teenage girl who has donated 106 hours of her time this year to a local elementary school -- nearly four times the total required to meet her Senior Project requirement. "That's powerful," she said of the student's accomplishment.

Mathews coordinates Inderkum's Senior Project program, serving as a conduit for students to give back to the community and then write about it. They spend time at Loaves and Fishes, St. John's Shelter, Heart for the Hungry, North Natomas Library, Front Street Animal Shelter, Discovery Museum, elderly care facilities, hospice programs, boys and girls clubs, and numerous other nonprofits.

'I love getting them connected because I think it's the most authentic learning we do all year, being out in the real world, doing things for people," Mathews said. "That's pretty empowering, to be part of service like that ... People really appreciate them being there. And it's a powerful thing for a student to recognize the fulfillment of learning how to serve."

To Mathews, English is the subject she teaches, but kids are her passion. She wants Inderkum students to leave her class at the end of the year feeling wanted, important, and confident they can accomplish big things in their life.

"If a kid walks out of my room believing they're valuable and cared for and loved, they can possibly show that to others now, because they've experienced it," she said. Read the full story here.
Library media tech Jessica Esperanza:
'They can learn anything with a book' 

Shortly after her daughter's birth, even while in the hospital, Jessica Esperanza read the infant her first book: "Winnie the Pooh."

Esperanza, the library media technician at Two Rivers Elementary School, sees books as a ticket to explore, learn, imagine, dream, research, or to visit any intriguing spot in the world without ever leaving the room.

"They can learn anything with a book," Esperanza said of Two Rivers students. "It doesn't matter who their teacher is, or where they live. With a book or a with a library, you have access to everything."

At Two Rivers, Esperanza also has used books as a way to bring kids together in a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, charity, empathy -- and fun. "I'm trying to show kids that they have the ability to make the world better, and to tie that into books," she said.

This month, Two Rivers students can pay off their library fines by donating canned goods to the NUSD Joey's Food Locker, which is located at Natomas High School and provides bags of groceries to families in need.

Esperanza also has organized a "Read to Feed" program in which students obtain sponsors to pledge a penny for every page the child reads. The money will be donated to Heifer International, which provides cows to families in underdeveloped nations.

"Jessica makes going to the library an event for our students!" Principal Colleen Perry said. "Her excitement and love of books is contagious, and students look forward to their library time all week."' Read the full story here.
Couldn't make it to February Open Houses?
Click here and they'll come to you ...

Inderkum freshmen ask: How can I make a difference? 
Hundreds of freshmen students gathered in the Inderkum High School gymnasium this week to ponder a single question: How can I make a difference in my community?

"Through your helping hands, we can build a better community, we can serve the community," said Derek Dykstra, an Inderkum math teacher and leader of the school's Link Crew, consisting of junior and senior mentors who captained the rally.

Beginning next year, as sophomores, the group of more than 500 teens will be required to participate in a personal service project as part of Inderkum's International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. Inderkum's rally was designed to open their eyes and hearts to the task.

"I think it's a good idea because sharing is caring," Jason, 14, said of the service requirement. "You can help people out, you can do a good deed." Read the full story here. 
Scholarships for Gridiron & Grade Excellence 
Football stars William Brown of Natomas High and Isaiah Hamilton-Williams of Inderkum High accepted football scholarships this month from the University of Southern Oregon and the University of Nevada, respectively. Both have grade point averages above 3.0. More importantly, perhaps, their coaches tout them as teens with amazing character. For example, Brown's Nighthawk team didn't win a single game his freshman year, yet he stuck it out each year until the team earned respectability. Why? There may have been tough times, but we were always a family. Read the full story here.
Making Valentine's Day Brighter for Senior Citizens 

Mix art with heart -- and what do you get?
These Valentine's Day cards, made for local senior citizens by American Lakes Elementary School 5th-graders in teacher Amy Sparks' class.
Can you hear our standing ovation?
Nice idea, nice cards, fantastic kids.
' Secondary School Options Night' 

What makes each Middle and High School Unique?
Stepping to the microphone to address dozens of families, Natomas High School Principal Yuri Penermon began by telling them what the event -- "Exploring Secondary School Options Night" -- was not.

It's not a competition, he said. It's not about which school is best. It's about learning what unique programs each secondary school offers and deciding which campus best suits your child's individual needs and interests.

The showcase was designed particularly for 5th and 8th-graders who are trying to decide which middle or high school campus to attend next year.

One-by-one, principals from each secondary school took turns at the microphone, providing a five-minute rundown of their academic and other options, such as band, music, drama, tutoring, sports or after-school programs. Read the full story here.
'A Touch of Understanding' 
Kids learn what it's like 
to live with a disability 

To help them understand what classmates with disabilities go through, young Bannon Creek students recently got to walk with a white cane as if they were blind, test drive a wheelchair, trace Braille letters with their fingertips, listen through earphones to noises that distract children with autism, and examine a variety of prosthetic arms, hands and legs. 

The 2nd and 3rd-graders also heard personal accounts by adults who live with physical disabilities.

The program is called "A Touch of Understanding" and the goal is to expand horizons, increase empathy, and generate goodwill.